Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Month: September 2015

Two Wheel Touring Edmonton, Part Three

With Fall arriving and the days getting cooler and shorter I was happy I was able to recently squeeze in one last city exploration by bike – this time of the north side-  finding new corners to an area I thought I knew well having lived on one of its streets once upon a time.

I pointed by handlebars toward my old high school, Ross Sheppard High School, to find its familiar façade intact but changes underway to the large lawn that ran between the front doors and the busy 111th Avenue. A driveway drop-zone for students seemed to be part of the modernization project and while I reflected that it was probably time for improvements since very little had changed in the 3 decades since my graduation losing the lawn where a few idle moments were spent in my brief time at “Shep” made me a little nostalgic.

Beside the high school is  the Peter Hemingway Fitness & Leisure Centre which was Coronation Pool until renamed in recent years for the award-winning architect of the facility with its striking sloping shape as well as another well known city landmark, the pyramids of the river valley’s Muttart Conservatory. Tucked behind the pool is a lesser known but interesting architectural public building, the round space saucer-shaped Queen Elizabeth Planetarium, one of the country’s first planetariums when it opened to the public in 1960 and named to commemorate a Canadian visit by our monarch the previous year.  Having been succeeded by the much larger but equally as cosmic in outward appearance Space and Science Centre (now the Telus World of Science) in 1983  – the angled white exterior peaking in on the right – the old planetarium sits closed, a grounded space ship parked in a quiet corner of Coronation Park. 20150816_132611

Heading east from Coronation Park finds more neighborhoods in Westmount spotted with residential “infill”, a wonderfully bureaucratic beige term to denote mature houses making way for new ones. The upside is that the city finally found its way to repave the streets making for smooth backstreet no-hands free cycling at a leisurely pace.

Another cityscape I’d experienced only from a moving car speeding along 107th Avenue which cuts it in two is the Edmonton Cemetery, the city’s oldest cemetery established in 1886 on the outskirts but now surrounded by a bustling capital.


Many city founders and dignitaries are buried in the Edmonton Cemetery including Emily Murphy, one of the Famous Five  who fought to have women declared as ‘persons’ under Canadian and British law before the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1927.






Within the cemetery is a Military Field of Honour established in 1922 to honour those soldiers who gave their lives defending country & commonwealth.










The neighborhood around the cemetery is Queen Mary Park which was once Hudson Bay Company Reserve before becoming developed for residential use in the 1950s like other north side Edmonton areas including Westmount and North Glenora.

As quiet now as the cemetery are the grounds of the former Edmonton City Center Airport having seen its long legacy of aviation come to an end. Canada’s first licenced airfield in 1929 was named for the mayor Kenneth Blatchford before later becoming the Municipal Airport or more simply as the ‘Muni’. A series of plebiscites in the mid 1990’s saw a majority of Edmontonians vote to consolidate all scheduled passenger air traffic to the Edmonton International Airport and a 2009 city council decision began a phased closure to eventually convert the land for new residential development.  I vividly recall studying in the newly opened Grant MacEwan City Center Campus in 1993 and having Boeing 737’s roar overhead as they were on final approach to the Muni and actively supported the airport’s decreased roll in passenger traffic and eventual closure. While rich in Canadian aviation history having the Muni to me only served to divide our passenger traffic leaving Edmonton with more regional flights than nonstop connections to other Canadian, American and overseas destinations. Consolidation of passenger flights to the Edmonton International has seen its traffic numbers soar and a number of new routes added including most recently a year-round nonstop flight to Amsterdam operated by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.


Like the control tower one lucky survivor of the airport’s changing role is the Alberta Aviation Museum  which is housed in a British Commonwealth Air Training Plan hangar built in 1941 -1942 and now designated a Provincial Heritage Site and an Edmonton Municipal Heritage Site. The museum is well worth a visit not only for the forty vintage aircraft on display but the hands on exhibits and flight simulators.

The ride ended with a spin around the NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) campus which borders the airport grounds along  before returning home via the straight & true north/south paved bike path that used to be a railway line. The views along this stretch perhaps aren’t as noteworthy as those on the south side but the trail here is level and without blind corners so not without some advantages. The north side isn’t without its charms and look forward exploring more of this part of the city and ending in the brewery district with a pint on a patio.

Two Wheel Touring Edmonton, Part Two

Now that another Labour Day has arrived signalling an end to Summer I thought I would post a few photos and thoughts of a recent ride around Edmonton as the cycling season likely isn’t to last much longer.

The city’s south side has always been a favorite and find myself passing through almost every ride for short or long spells. The University of Alberta campus and surrounding neighborhoods occupying the high ground overlooking the river valley do hold a rich history that is there for the discovering.

One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Garneau, is just east of the university and is named after Laurent Garneau a Metis who fought alongside Louis Riel in Manitoba’s 1869 Red River Rebellion settling here some five years later when barely 100 others called it home. 20150809_121456

Until the 1912 amalgamation with the city of Edmonton the district was part of the town of Strathcona and that heritage is reflected on street signs which have both the modern street & avenue numbers as well as the previous name in smaller letters below.

The sturdy red brick Garneau School is a local landmark and a throwback to a different time when students had separate entrances.


When the university moved to its current location in 1911 five years after its founding and with the completion of the High Level Bridge in 1913 the whole area underwent a boom as notable homes were built by prominent local citizens including the province’s first premier, Alexander Rutherford who purchased a lot overlooking the river and built a proper mansion complete with white Doric columns, two storey bay windows and Dutch gables. Built for a princely sum of $25,000 the home was occupied by the Rutherford family until 1940 and narrowly escaped demolition with university expansion in the 1960’s and Rutherford House is now a designated provincial heritage site.


Rutherford is my kind of Edmontonian as not only did he stick it to Calgary by supporting the northern city’s selection as site of the legislature and therefore capital of the new province of Alberta but also by working to have a project dear to his heart, the University of Alberta, located in his hometown of Strathcona. Despite the setbacks the city to the south went on around the same time to rename its outdoor show the Stampede and has done fairly well for itself since even though its no Edmonton although I will admit to having a bias in the inter-city rivalry.

Crossing busy 109th Street I was surprised to find on a leafy side street a mosque showing the city’s diversity isn’t only for new subdivisions. 20150809_122028

Further east you find the heart of Strathcona which was gearing up for the annual Fringe Festival, a ten day arts and theatre festival that’s one of the largest in North America drawing over 600,000 to the outdoor events and over 100,000 ticket holders to various indoor theatre productions.  It’s always fun to ride through when the event itself is underway and catch a few street performances.









Blocks away is the End Of Steel Park which commemorates the northern terminus of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway which began operating in 1891. On the preserved tracks is a vintage rail caboose.


Along the bike trails that follow the edge of the river valley in this area is an excellent vantage point to take in the city skyline from Legislature to the new bridge being built over the North Saskatchewan River to replace the 102 year-old Walterdale Bridge. As with all major construction projects around Edmonton however this new bridge is a year behind schedule giving us another little while before the green spans and metal roadway of the iron bridge disappear from view.

This has been a truly exceptional Summer weather-wise with hot days, little rain and almost bug-free conditions that help make for excellent conditions for city cycling. The weather like me goes in cycles.

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